Autumn Delights

24 Oct

I love autumn. Apart from the rising cases of Covid and my cancelled flights back home. Oh, and the dark mornings.

But apart from that I love the colours, being able to wear huge jumpers and not feeling guilty for spending the whole evening on the sofa.

I also love that it’s time for pumpkins and booted-walks in the forest.

No autumn time is complete without a trip to Jucker Farm, just outside Zurich. They have a pumpkin exhibition each year where they make huge displays from pumpkins. This year the theme was ‘Under the Sea’. This diver was my favourite.

Purchasing a pumpkin isn’t mandatory but it would be rude not to buy at least one. So we came away with a pumpkin and a butternut squash. The butternut squash was made into yummy soup and a butternut squash and feta quiche. I’m still planning what to do with the pumpkin…

On a walk to the forest recently I spotted quite a few funky fungi. So funky that I’m pretty sure they’re not edible! So I just took some photos and left them for a forest creature to nibble on!

Cheese Dreams

20 Oct

This year I eaten my weight in cheese. I’m not exaggerating! And I changed one of my 40 Before 40 travel-related challenges to take part in a cheese masterclass course. Which I completed a few weeks ago!

It was a dream come true (but not one of those weird ones that people blame on cheese). Our host was Sherly, originally from Korea but now fully integrated into Swiss life and a certified Swiss Cheese Sommelier!

The 9 cheeses we sampled

She told us so much about cheese that I never knew, like Swiss cheese is mainly made from raw not pasteurised milk, which knives to use for different cheeses, how to plate different cheeses exactly how a cheese sommelier would and how to describe the distinct flavours of the cheese.

I was surprised about how different all the cheeses were. The hardest thing was deciding which one was my favourite – completely impossible when all of them were amazing.

Plating up like the best of ’em!

Finally, after being filled to the gills with cheese, it was time to learn how to make a Swiss classic – Chäse-Chüechli. Which is also impossible to say sober nevermind after a few drinks. A Chäse-Chüechli is a cheese tart that is made with leftover (I’ve never left any cheese so not sure how this happens) cheese. So simple to make and delicious as part of my lunch the next day.

Simply delicious!

In the past few weeks we’ve been trying new cheeses and, of course, Fondue season has started so cheese is very much still on the agenda and will be for the next few months.

Super September

30 Sep

If you blinked you might have missed September. It’s been a busy month which is why there’s a lack of blog posts this month.

I celebrated my birthday at the start of the month, went on holiday, ended up in quarantine (because my holiday destination was added to risk list while I was away) and started my Masters programmes. It’s been all go – even though I’ve been confined to four walls for 10 days of it.

I’ve also had my flights in October back to the UK cancelled so I think international travel for this year is over. Being quarantined has been ok but I’m not in a massive rush to repeat it.

In September I hit 200 days of being sober. I must admit that being on holiday was a real test of my willpower. Is it even a holiday if you don’t have a refreshing cold drink in the sunshine? Luckily one of our favourite bars had non-alcoholic cocktails so I was happy enough. And the bonus was that they were classed as ‘children’s cocktails’ so they were cheap as well. I actually think virgin Strawberry Daiquiris taste nicer than ones with alcohol in.

A gianr virgin cocktail

Knowing that I would have to quarantine when arriving back in Switzerland I went running almost every day and managed to run about 50km which is more than I was expecting. I enjoy running along the beach anyway but it’s even better when there is virtually no one else around. (The government in Spain are strict about wearing masks etc and hardly any hotels, bars or restuarants were open).

So the first thing I did this morning when I was released from prison, I mean quarantine, was go to the gym. I had a feeling I shouldn’t have started my membership until October because there was always a risk that I might have to isolate. But that’s how life is sometimes. The main thing is I’m healthy and can get back to normal life.

Life didn’t stop for me in quarantine. I have managed to get a lot of writing done and I even helped come up with a concept for a microfilm for a Zurich Film Festival competition for my friends who then went on to film, edit and enter it, while I was stuck at home. All in all, a great month!

October looks like it is going to be busy again: I’m not sure how I managed to do so much travelling in the past. I’m going to be very busy with writing and trying to complete more of my challenges!

I hope you had a great September and are looking forward to autumn!

Adios August

3 Sep

August was a busy month and there were some surprises along the way. Here (slightly later than planned) is what I did last month:

The online drama classes I toook during lockdown finally went live with a socially-distanced audience. I was completely unprepared but I managed to get through it relatively unscathed. I was quite taken aback by some of the comments I received for my monolgue performance and a scene that I wrote which was staged read. It is so incredible to hear something your wrote being brought to life by actors.

I got accepted to not one but two Masters programmes. I didn’t think I’d be accepted to either of them but I found out I had got places on the same day. Incredible stuff. After a lot of consideration I have decided to do both of them. I know it is going to be a lot of hard work but I would be impossible to choose one or the other. I also have a contingency plan if worse comes to worse. Both are writing related and I’m so excited to start. I have already bought lots of new stationery!

I found out one of my short stories will be published later this year around November. It’s given me confidence that what I write is publishable and I have been writing more as a result. My problem has always been that I don’t finish writing that I start so I will be finishing projects I’ve started in September before my courses start and I forget about them completely.

I completed the bonus round of my online book challenge group which means I read 20 books in two months. I read so much but my to read pile just keeps getting higher and higher.

Speaking of challenges I finished another challenge from my 40 Before 40 list. Here is the link if you missed it.

I also finished my 12 week transformation programme at the gym. I did two weeks, had a two-month break because of lockdown and then completed the last ten weeks this week. It’s made such a difference, even though the early mornings are a killer. I’m hoping to get back to more running as well as continue with some of the classes that I’ve enjoyed. This week I’m having a break though because I feel like I deserve it.

September will be busy. It’s my birthday and I will be going on holiday and starting my Masters courses! It’s going to be another busy month but I’m ready for it!

Hope you have a great September!

Homemade

30 Aug

The weather has taken a turn for the worse. I’m sort of glad because it was far too hot but now it’s just turned into torrential rain resulting with me being completely reluctant to leave the house for anything that isn’t a life-or-death situation.

As a result I have spent the weekend reading (yay!), watching films (yay!) and completing one more of my 40 Before 40 Challenges (yay!). This weekend I’ve made jam!

I’ve always wanted to have a go at making jam but I was scared to. Something that most people normally buy in a supermarket must be very difficult to make, right? WRONG! I found it suprisingly easy.

I didn’t pick my own fruit because a) a bit late in the fruit picking season to go and pick them myself, b) it’s been raining – a lot, and c) if I did go and pick them myself I would have spent most of time eating them rather than just picking them and putting them in the basket. As there was an offer on in the supermarket and I love them, I made blueberry jam.

My first attempt at blueberry jam

As I say it was relatively easy and you don’t need many ingredients. I used blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and plant-based pectin which makes my jam vegan! You basically put everything in a pot and boil it! I was always so impressed by the people on GBBO making their own jam and now that magic is gone.

We had it for breakfast and it’s very tasty and not too sweet!

I also decided to make lemon curd – another favourite on GBBO that I’ve always been amazed by. It is a bit tricker than making jam because the eggs can split but it turned out great. My wrist wasn’t too happy at the constant stirring though! I actually think this tastes better than what you can buy in the shops but as you can’t buy this in the shops here I guess that’s not so impressive!

Homemade Lemon Curd

I now have enough jam and lemon curd to last for a few months and I won’t hesitate to make them again on a rainy afternoon!

Challenge Update

21 Aug

It’s shortly coming up to 3 years since I started my 40 Before 40 challenge so it’s time for a round-up and also to make some changes.

It was never my intention to make any changes to the list but (surprise, surprise) because of COVID-19 I’ve decided to take the travel related items off the list and replace them with other challenges. My aim is still to complete the travel related items but not within the timeframe.

So from now on the following five challenges have changed to:

2. Complete a Masters programme

13. Self publish an ebook of flash fiction

18. Take part in a Cheese Masterclass with a Cheese Sommelier

27. Read an average of a book a week

36. Learn how to make jam

I realise there is a huge difference between making jam and travelling business class on a long haul flight but needs must! I’d rather have something ‘easier’ to complete than not get all the challenges completed. And the challenge I have replaced will still say on my bucket list so it’s not like they will disappear forever!

With two years to go, I have completed 22 of the challenges, with 9 of these being completed in the last year. I also have quite a few challenges in progress like going alcohol-free for a year (almost 200 days done!), I’m still working my way through the film list and I will be starting a Masters in September all being well, so it’s convenient that that is now on the list.

So I am hopefully still on track to complete all the challenges in 2 years time!

Time to float

18 Aug

It’s been perfect weather to float down the river in a blow-up dingy! And by that I mean it’s been so hot, the only way you can cool down is by getting down to a body of water and immersing yourself in water.

I did this last week with a friend. I don’t think I even went once last year so it was long overdue.

The hardest part is always blowing the boat up. Luckily we have two of us to share this task. We were ready to go in no time.

Pumped up and ready to go!

The best part about floating during the week is that the river is far less crowded. Go on a weekend and there are so many boats and inflatables that it feels a bit like the Wacky Races on water. It was so quiet and relaxing.

I also realised that part of the river we floated down is the same part of the river where I used to go running during my lunchtime – this activity is on hold thanks to COVID as I’m now running around where I live rather than the office.

View of the city from the river

Last time I did this activity, it felt like it lasted forever but it seemed over far too quickly this time. I wanted to go back to the start and do it all again. Of course, I realised when I got home that I had got sunburnt despite putting plenty of sun protection on. Luckily it wasn’t too bad but I definitely have a mark where my t-shirt has been.

I am hoping to get another chance for a float this season but time isn’t on my side with a few trips planned for my days off and tennis lessons about to start up again so I am keeping my fingers crossed that the weather stay good until September!

Bye Bye, July

2 Aug

Slightly later than planned, for no other reason than laziness, here is what I have been up to in July:

I completed the first round of my online reading challenge that I take part on a regular basis. I managed to read 11 books in July, mainly because TV has been so shockingly awful. I’m now only one book away from reaching the target I set for myself in 2020 which was 75. I have a feeling I might surpass my total from 2019 but I’m going to challenge myself to read some longer books I have been putting off for a while.

The ‘offline’ books I read in July

I’m now 100% in on the weightlifting/gym routine and I am enjoying it. Four session a week plus running and tennis lessons has been gruling but I am getting used to it and managing to stick with it. The added benefit it that I actually sleep. I’ve been a notoriously bad sleeper, espeically over the past few years but now (as a result of the training and the early mornings) I drag myself to bed before 10 almost falling asleep before my head hits the pillow.

The package of tennis lessons I paid for it almost at an end and, considering I had never really played before, I’m very happy with the progress and I might keep playing on in the winter.

I took part in my first ever improv show. I still can’t make up my mind if I liked it or not. The audience seemed to be entertained which is the main thing. More classes will start in the new year and I’m tempted to carry on with it.

I’ve also had online script writing lesson which have been great fun and I’ve learnt a lot. It’s given me quite a bit to think about in terms of whether I want to focus more on script writing or novels/short stories. I guess I can always do both!

I’m not sure what August will bring but there is another drama performance in the pipeline and more reading of course. Perhaps later in the year there will be a holiday or a chance to go home to see family and friends. Fingers crossed!

Gardening Success

20 Jul

I’m not the world’s best gardener but I have been trying to spend more time in the garden, especially as the chances of a two-week holiday this summer seemed unlikely. I took it as the perfect opportunity to invest time and energy into the garden while I’m here to enjoy it.

I’ve been surprised by my successes so far. The cherry tomatoes are coming along (a few even look like they are turning red); the snack peppers have already been ‘harvested’ once; my sweet peas are growing like the clappers, but alas! no sign of any flowers yet; and a moldy tomato I decided to plant to “see if it would grow or not” seems to grow an inch every time I look at it.

I need to replant the ‘moldy tomato plant’ because it needs more space to grow into at the rate its growing. I’ve been meaning to do that for the past five days now but I will do it tomorrow.

Here are some photos:

Lots of cherry tomatoes and the first ones turning red!
This is what happens when you plant a moldy tomato…
First ‘harvest’ of snack peppers

I would like to grow other vegetables and plant but at the moment I don’t have deep enough soil. I’m already thinking about investing in some more permanent (and deeper) plots of soil for next year!

Back to Drama

13 Jul

During the Lockdown, I busied myself with online drama course offered by an English-speaking theatre group based in Zurich. It was so much fun. I didn’t do much acting and drama when I was at school (long story that I’ll save for another time) so I’m making up for lost time and trying to learn as much about drama and the theatre as I can. I like having a hobby that is completely different to my day job but also compliments my ambitions of being a full-time writer.

Now people can meet in person again, drama classes are back and in person (while observing the 2m distancing rule as much as possible). So I signed up for an Improvisation class. It sounds like the stuff of nightmares to most people, being without a script and taking suggestion from the audience to be used in the scene, but I’d much prefer to do that than learn lines and lines from a script that I’m bound to forget anyway.

With any luck what we learn in the class will be showcased in a performance near the end of the month. The luck part is hoping that a second wave hasn’t hit and it’s still possible to perform live.

Then later in August the theatre company is hoping to bring some of the pieces that we studied and created in lockdown to the real stage, which is such a great idea. I’ve put myself forward to perform a couple of pieces so I just have to see if they are chosen to be performed on the night.

On top of that I’ve also started an online screen writing course. It’s online because playwright who is workshopping it is based in the UK so for once an online course is happening online for logistical reasons and not because of a global pandemic. I’ve never written anything before for the stage or TV apart from a short play I wrote as part of the online course that ran in April. It’s very fun to learn something new and I’m hoping it will also help me develop interesting characters to use in a future book or short story.

I am grateful, in a weird way, for the pandemic because I wouldn’t have been able to take these classes and find something I have a passion for. Obviously I hope life will return to normal as soon as possible but I would like to stick to the acting and theatre now I’ve found it.